The Mets could choose to not do a thing this offseason and probably be okay at second base in 2018. That’s because the team picked up Asdrubal Cabrera’s option after he posted a .351 on-base percentage with 14 home runs last year. His poor baserunning and declining defense take away some value, but Cabrera’s solid bat is expected to serve the Mets well once again next season.
Still, like most positions on New York’s roster, there is room for improvement. We won’t expect the front office to spend big bucks on the keystone after bringing Cabrera back for such a bargain, but it looks like the plan is to put Cabrera at third, keep Wilmer Flores on the bench, and add a second baseman from outside the organization.
Bring ‘em back?
Two of the hottest free agent second basemen out there are guys who played for the Mets last season. The first is Neil Walker, who was dealt to Milwaukee in August after he got over a hamstring injury that kept him out for most of July. That injury was part of the reason why Walker failed to reproduce his career-high 23 home runs from 2016, but in 2017 he hit for a career-high .362 on-base percentage with a not-too-shabby 14 home runs. Plus, Walker can still field his position adequately, so he’ll probably demand a multi-year deal this offseason.
If the Mets weren’t able to bring back Cabrera, they might be looking closely at Walker right now. However, with a veteran already in tow, the club will probably wait until next year if it’s going to offer a big deal to a second baseman.
The other guy who played for New York is Jose Reyes. Although the veteran infielder got hot in July and ended the season with 15 home runs to go with 24 stolen bases, the Mets were unable to trade him. That probably means that Reyes can be had on a one-year deal this offseason, but the Mets may just as easily pass due to the 34-year-old’s failure to get on base consistently. On the other hand, he would have gotten on base more often if his BABIP wasn’t so low, and he did show willingness to be versatile last year.
The realistic outside option
Brandon Phillips may not be the 20/20 threat that he was in his heyday, but the 36-year-old can still get work done at the plate thanks to his great contact ability. Last year with Atlanta and the Angels, Phillips struck out in just 12 percent of his plate appearances while hitting 13 home runs and stealing 11 bases. He ought to be available on a short-term deal due to his age, but he’s still a solid defensive player and an asset in the clubhouse as well.
Maybe worth a flyer
Another older option who is worth a look is Chase Utley. If the Mets and their fans are willing to look past the former Philadelphia second baseman’s past baseball crimes, they’ll find a future Hall of Famer who can still perform in the field and at the plate. Stephen Drew is a similar option who would get over more easily with the Queens faithful, but his production has been more volatile due to a checkered injury history.
If the Mets decide they are happy with both Cabrera and Flores in the starting lineup, they could add a defensive specialist like Darwin Barney for late-inning work. Due to his very limited offensive upside, Barney would be a depth play, but his skill with the glove has been consistently excellent throughout his career.
Other defense-first veterans include Adam Rosales and Cliff Pennington, but like with Barney, either of those players joining New York would be met with disappointment. The Mets already have guys like Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds to fill out the bench. If they’re going to add a free agent, that newcomer will be expected to make a bigger difference.